Transforming Virtual World Learning

Transforming Virtual World Learning – Thinking in 3D

2b3d’s CEO, Randy Hinrichs, coedits with Dr. Charles Wankel a new book called Transforming Virtual World Learning. Hinrichs and Wankel review the latest research on long term use of virtual world education among practitioners who have demonstrated several years experience in using virtual worlds. The various authors from universities and community colleges cite empirical evidence, narratives, virtual world frameworks, and lesson plans for developing advanced learning techniques.

What the book aims to do is teach something called thinking in 3D. How is the planning, design, development and implementation process different in the creation of virtual worlds for e-learning. Transforming the way you engage in the process of creating virtual worlds for learning requires all the stakeholders to be engaged in-world from the outset. From the moment a client wishes to use virtual worlds for learning, the stakeholders need to start in-world touring and experiencing the virtual world. The design process must occur in world, with all of the project management assets lining the walls of a virtual meeting space. Development should occur in world, with clients able to come in-world at any time to review progress against the plan, interacting with any of the developers, and following through development from beginning to end. Implementation requires the stakeholders to participate in world for reviews, roll out and evaluation. Think in world, be in world, succeed in world.

Key among the process for thinking in 3D is understanding two key concepts: cybergogy and residency. What is the learning science for developing learning in a virtual world that specifically can be defined as a place with discernible activities and processes. Scopes from the University of Southhampton in the UK, provides us with a framework called cybergogy. Cybergogy is identified as a formal model shaped by learning archetypes (role playing, simulation, peregrination (tours), social networking meshing and cybergogy assessment and four learning domains (cognitive, emotional, dexterous and social) that must be played out long term in virtual worlds.

Residency is a concept that underscores the entire book. Residency is similar to what a medical intern experiences when working as a “pre-doctor” in a hospital. The virtual world learner, armed with the archetypes for surviving in a virtual world, culturally adapts to the environment by living in it. Creating and using a personal location in world provides students with a place to learn, to meet, to store and to display their work. To build on personal assets and group projects. Faculty similarly build long term presence in world and use it to meet for office hours, create lessons collaborative, persist their activities through recorded multimedia and engage in technical, communicative and cultural exercises that engage learners on a daily basis.

Dr. Owen Kelly at Arcada University, professor at small technical college in Finland writes “In 2002 Arcada began an experiment that aimed to develop a learning laboratory in the form of a virtual culture embodied in an online world. For seven years, Kelly looked across multiple courses within the University and developed a “third place” to teach various topics interdependently. His in world country, Rosario, provided not only lessons on how to structure information, how to brand and design, how to explore research methods in health medicine, how to use virtual worlds for entreprenurial studies, foundations in Photoshop, tourism and media, and cross media studies, but created a culture, a language, an economy, in effect a transformation in virtuality. Professor Kelly created a “world” in which a culture emerged and declined. He discovered that adoption across the institution was required to sustain the novelty of using a virtual world. He was on to the right idea, at a time in which institutions haven’t fully embraced the need to involve the entire institution.
Woollard, a Southhamptom professor in virtual worlds, outlines the social rules needed to work effectively in a virtual world. One of his students captures the need for such rules very well in saying “It feels a bit strange walking around an environment where you don’t actually know the social rules, and the social rules are definitely an area that needs to be defined in an online virtual environment when considering the mental and physical well being of pupils”. These words express a trainee teacher making her third visit to the “staff room” at the University of Southampton Island in Second Life™. It reflects the three important aspects of teaching and learning in a virtual world: the world is immersive, it requires listening and reacting to the the sights and sounds coming from the computer that engender emotional engagement. It needs to follow social rules in which people need to acquire information, get advice and guidance and understand the procedures and ethics of in-world behavior, and finally, avatars need to have a mental and physical sense of well being, whether this includes the way people are talking to each other over VoIP, the way they are dressed, the way they comport themselves, and the way they support or don’t support each other.

This blog entry cites the importance of adhering to a transformation model: identify what the cybergogy is for creating effective and meaningful activities in the virtual world, and develop a sense or residency with social rules, and a comprehensive construct to fully experience the benefits of immersive learning and significant cost savings. However, be warned that successful transformation requires the entire culture of your organization to engage in the process of thinking in 3D to effectively utilize this game changing software.

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